Are Educational TV Shows Effective Teachers?

Are Educational TV Shows Effective Teachers?

An analysis of the important role the media plays in our child's education.
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It seems like the perfect innovation: a device that provides entertaining, interactive education to your child 24/7 free of cost (with the exception of the monthly cable bill, of course), allowing you to safely plant them in front of the screen while you work or savor your free time. Since it's conception, the television has consistently been one of the most constantly-evolving pieces of technology; it started with the intent to spread news and entertainment to the masses and served little purpose beyond that, and was primarily intended for adults. This changed during the late-1940's with the creation of shows such as Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Howdy Doody, and Captain Kangaroowhich served the purpose of entertaining children rather than adults.

While TV was often regarded as mindless entertainment, this would change as a new dimension of children's media emerged in 1969; with the creation of the instant hit Sesame Street came a flood of innovative new shows for children that not only sought to entertain, but also to educate. While productive in theory, many parents debate whether or not this "hands-free" approach to learning is actually helping their children to grasp preschool concepts, or if it's simply a toned-down form of child neglect. Does educational television actually help children learn, or is it too good to be true?

The first benefit of educational television comes in the form of accessibility. A child coming from a financially-strained family may not be able to attend preschool (an issue I've previously tackled), but can easily turn on the TV to have access to similar knowledge they'd be expected to learn in preschool. The basic comprehension of numbers and letters, for example, is a fundamental part of childhood development, and though it's ideal for a physical entity, such as a teacher or parent, to teach these to a child, a parent may not have the funds to send their child to preschool, and may spend a majority of the day working. This is, of course, where educational programming has an advantage; it's accessible and reliant, providing an otherwise uneducated child with the information they'll need in a fun and interactive way.

Another major benefit deals with how vast and widespread television is. While this may seem like a drawback to many, as an overly-generalized approach can ostracize minorities, many educational TV shows have actually done the contrary. Naturally, education on certain topics differs between locations; a preschooler from San Francisco is going to lear about different societal issues and norms than a preschooler from small-town Georgia. My own mother, for example, grew up in a small village in Illinois during the 1970's, just a few decades after the ban (yes, ban) on blacks in the county was lifted. Naturally, the first time she was exposed to non-white individuals was through the media-- specifically, Sesame Street, which was famously known for being one of the first children's shows to feature a racially-diverse cast. This came as such a culture shock to the American population that Mississippi actually attempted to ban Sesame Street from airing in the state, fearing that it would confuse children seeing a fully-integrated cast. Racial diversity isn't the only area where Sesame Street has proven to be a positive source of societal progression-- also featured in the show was a segment about breastfeeding, a cast member with Down Syndrome, a muppet whose father is incarcerated, a song empowering natural hair, and even an episode that tackled the sensitive topic of death. For many children, this would be their only means of learning about such topics, as most preschools shy away from them. Introducing these topics also gives parents a great opportunity to discuss them with their child, giving the topics a preface and reason to be discussed. For minority children in less diverse settings, this can provide a sense of inclusion and representation; A young Mexican-American girl may consider the curious and corageous Dora the Explorer to be a role model, for example-- I personaly find Julia, the first-ever muppet with autism, to be a great example of representation for myself. Though reading, writing, and math are integral parts of education, it's imperative that children learn about the world around them and the people within it.

Though it's clear that TV offers an accessable education with different perspectives than a preschool classroom, what are the shortcomings of educational TV? Well, the main issue with it is that many parents rely on it to be their child's sole educator, which professionals strongly discourage; unlike a teacher, who can stop, repeat, and answer questions, the TV can only go forward,at a pace that may not be ideal for certain children. The child cannot ask questions on puzzling topics, which can lead them to either not grasp-- or worse-- misunderstand a lesson. Schools also provide social interaction, teaching children how to communicate and cooperate with other children and adults, which is something the TV can't provide; Schools give children a strict schedule they must adhere and adapt to, and teaches proper behavior and management skills. The child cannot learn from experiences from the TV like they can at a preschool, where many lessons and ideas are coneyed through the senses; all they can do is watch. Another major issue boils down to the unhealthy nature of watching TV; when a child learns in a school environment, play and physical activity are encouraged, while excessive TV watching can cause a child to become lethargic.

So, now that we know the pros and cons of educational TV, what can we take from this? Well, like most things, educational programming is good... In moderation; to properly learn, children need the aid of an adult who can discuss and explain concepts to them. In reality, educational TV is most effective when used as a supplement, rather than the primary source, of education. It's important that parents and teachers, rather than the media, lead the education of children. So, no, there's nothing wrong with your child watching TV, but it is important that you know what your child is watching, and provide further information on what they're being taught. As previously mentioned, these shows can spark a conversation between you and your child, and can give you the opportunity to teach them with a hands-on approach. This approach is supported by the creators of Sesame Street, who decided to air their episode about death on Thanksgiving, when children would be around many adults to help support their understanding.

In the end, it's important that we realize the importance of discussing things with our children, and guiding them through the world of education by hand, rather than by screen.

Cover Image Credit: http://extras.mnginteractive.com

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Saying Goodbye To Freshman Year

"High School goes by fast, but college goes by even faster."
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“High School goes by fast, but college goes by even faster”, we’ve all heard it and probably all ignored it as well. I mean time is time. It moves at the same pace no matter what you’re doing right?

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It was almost eight months ago that I stepped onto this campus as a freshman, now it is my last four weeks and they are jam-packed. From formal to finals I am in the home stretch of my first year of college. I just registered for my classes next semester, and can’t get it through my head that I will soon be a sophomore.

While walking around campus I still catch myself thinking, wow I am really here. I am a college student, at a school, I fall more in love with every day. So, how can I be a sophomore now when I feel like I just got here?

Yes, I still have three amazing years of college ahead of me, and I can’t wait to see what those years have in store in for me. But, I just can’t help but feel a little sad that I won’t be a freshman anymore. I won’t be the youngest in my sorority family, I won’t be coming back to a dorm every night.

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And this life surpassed all my expectations. I have a home away from home. I have friends that I know will be my bridesmaids some day. I have experiences that I’ll never forget.

Now as I head back home for the summer I couldn’t be more excited to be with my friends there and my family. But, I also couldn’t be sadder to leave my friends here, even if it’s only for three months because they’ve become another kind of family.

Despite leaving freshman year behind, we have so many more memories to make whether it’s doing the Seminole chop in Doak, coordinating our Halloween costumes, or just chilling at the house. We’ve all come so far this year, and I can’t wait to see just how far we go. So bring it on Sophomore year, I’m ready for ya.

Cover Image Credit: Cameron Kira

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Your Feelings Are Not Invalid, It's OK To Not Be OK

I know that life can get really hard, but I promise it'll be okay.

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Recently, I have had an extremely hard time with my level of happiness that I have in my life. I go through my days feeling overly exhausted by the drama and hardship around me. I have gone through the past few weeks really struggling with this stint of depression and anxiety that I have been fighting with through the course of my life. These past few weeks, I have had large issues with this feeling of not being good enough and feeling like the world around me is falling apart because of stress and drama and self-image issues happening around me. I was at a point where I found myself not being able to have a positive thought in my mind and it was feeling like the whole world was against me.

I hate feeling like this. I feel like my world is crashing down and I truly just want to feel better. I have come to the conclusion in my life that the world I find myself living in makes us feel like if you feel depressed or upset, you have an issue and you are not alright. Numerous times I have been told that I need to get over it or that my issues are just "first world issues" that do not matter. This has shown me that there is communication in our world that is not being discussed. Depression has become this thing that society looks at so commonly and we have become accustomed to the idea of people around us being depressed that it makes us numb to it. This has made people think of depression as something not as horrible as it truly is because "everyone" has it. Depression is something that is extremely detrimental to the person being affected by it.

My journey with depression and anxiety started at a young age. I would have anxiety attacks at random times because of untold issues that I was having with my father or issues with bullying. From that young age, I learned very quickly to put up an act when I was around people because I didn't want them to tell me that I needed to get over it or tell me that it was not an actual issue and I was just being dramatic. I kept my mouth shut and pretended that this black mass wasn't engulfing me into is and pulling me deeper and deeper into this whole that was full of self-deprecating thoughts and images. People in school with me and that went dancing with me couldn't tell at all. They thought that I was this nice, happy little girl and honestly, I couldn't be mean to anyone else because all of my efforts were being put into being mean to myself. But, as I said, I couldn't express this to anyone because I felt like this issue I was having was one that I shouldn't be having and that there was something wrong with me for feeling this way.

Here's the thing: it has taken me so long to realize it, but I have come to understand that it is okay not to be okay.

Going through my life with this overall and underlying sadness and self-image trouble does prevent me from doing some things, but it does not mean that I need to stop doing what I am. I do have this issue but it is alright for me to talk about it and there is nothing wrong with me for feeling the way I do because at this point in my life and in history, there are a lot of things I have to deal with that are not the greatest mentally. Understanding the issue and talking about it is the only way to improve my metal standing, however, and I feel like this right to talk about it should not feel like it is too taboo to actually have conversations about. The world around us though needs to listen and stop blowing off these issues like they are not important. I have experienced many times this idea of someone telling me that I complain too much after I talk to them about the struggles I have in my life and I am sick and tired of feeling as though my problems do not matter. Big or small, people react to hardships differently and this needs to be something that the world understands and listens to.

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